Living Longer with Purpose

Many studies have been done over the years to try to find an answer to an age-old question. How can I live longer?
Dan Buettner gave a speech at the TEDxTC Conference in 2009 that went over some interesting studies concerning age and the health in our later years. He came across a few small geographical locations, while working with the National Geographic and National Institute on Aging, that have people living well into their late 90’s and 100’s while also maintaining a great quality of life. Dan calls these regions “Blue Zones”. Not only are people in these regions living to be 100 but they are still operating on hearts, building fences, and riding mopeds.
“[T]he fact of the matter is the best science tells us that the capacity of the human body, my body, your body, is about 90 years, a little bit more for women. But life expectancy in this country is only 78. So somewhere along the line, we’re leaving about 12 good years on the table.”
-Dan Buettner

The studies carried out further illustrated some commonalities between these blue regions and Dan believes he has found 9 congruent reasons why these locations have healthier elder populations.
The first Blue Zone discussed was found off the coast of Italy on an island called Sardina. The population is roughly 1.4 million, but not all of these people occupy the Blue Zone. In the Nuoro province is where you will find 10 times more centenarians than found in America. People here at 102 years old can be found riding a bicycle to work.
What makes them live longer?

  • Low-intensity physical labor
  • Plant-based diet
  • Omega-3 rich food instead of Omega-6
  • Wine with more polyphenals than any other in the world
  • Social status of elders*

*Elders in the Nuoro province are treated very well and honored in the society. This, Dan believes, is the key to the health of their elders.
The second “Blue Zone” in the study is located in Okinawa, islands in southern Japan. The statistics of this region hails it as “ground zero for world longevity.”

Again similar reasons to why they live longer:

  • Plant-Based Diet
  • Avoid over-eating
  • Lifelong friends-Moai
  • Ikigai*

The normal American view of life includes two distinct parts of your life. First we are born, and then we retire. Though in the Okinawan language there is not a word for retirement. They do however have a word that they use for their whole life ikigai – “the reason for which you wake up in the morning.”
This word propped up when the National Institute on Aging gave the people doing the study a questionnaire to ask the centenarians. They must have been very culturally astute because on of the questions on this questionnaire was “what is your ikigai.” Surprisingly most every centenarian knew exactly what their ikigai was.
Longevity and purpose seem to have an affinity to one another. It has even propped up in inhumane studies of the past. A television show even proposed the questions what do you need to survive in the wilderness and the answer was not being fit or having any specific knowledge, but rather they found that your mind and drive are the best assets to help you survive. I think the study Dan is talking about reveals that we need purpose in order to remain alive.
So I ask you, what is your ikigai?